For these medical students, poetry nurtures the soul

BY Anne Davenport  January 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM EST


Kai Huang, Shara Yurkiewicz and Samyukta Mullangi are three of Dr. Rafael Campo’s students, who are learning poetry to supplement their medical training.

Chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown sat down with three Harvard medical students to talk about why they take time out from their hectic schedules to focus on reading poetry and honing their own writing skills.

For Shara Yurkiewicz, poetry is a way to deal with all the emotions that medical professionals have to face.

“The very first time that I wrote a poem was third year after a patient passed away. I took out a piece of paper after this event and I just started writing by hand and there was just something more raw about poetry that I couldn’t get across in the prose that I had normally written in the past two years.”

Yurkiewicz is joined by Kai Huang and Samyukta Mullangi. They credit poetry with “feeding the soul,” “doing justice” to hard realities that prose couldn’t adequately address and giving them perspective on the parallels between medicine and writing.

Video shot by Tom Fahey and edited by Victoria Fleischer.

Watch a full report with Dr. Campo on Thursday’s PBS NewsHour. You can also hear Dr. Rafael Campo read three of his poems and talk about how his stethoscope helps him explore the rhythms of poetry. If you are a teacher, you can introduce the poetry of Rafael Campo to your class with our original lesson plan.

And learn more about the “Where Poetry Lives” series featuring reports by U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown on issues that matter to Americans through the framework of poetry. This series started on Sept. 12. with a report on a poetry project in New York that works with Alzheimer’s patients. It continued in October with a report on young poets in the city of Detroit.

Watch chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s broadcast report on Rafael Campo.